How NC State football 'forged' Hall of Fame NFL coach Bill Cowher

RALEIGH — Bill Cowher has a crowd of memories, moments and lessons learned from his time with NC State football.

A Super Bowl champion as coach of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Cowher got his start with the Wolfpack as a standout linebacker from 1975-78.

“I remember the games against Penn State. I remember the games against teams that never offered me a scholarship, because they said I was too small,” Cowher said with a smile Friday night at Carter-Finley Stadium ahead of NC State’s game against Louisville.

“I remember the last game against Pitt — they didn’t offer me anything either. I made a lot of things personal when I played, so those games meant a little bit more to me. But I just remember my teammates, as much as I remember anything. I just remember the camaraderie that we had. … That was forged here.”

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Cowher became the latest member of the Wolfpack’s Ring of Honor on Friday. He was at a coaching clinic in the spring when NC State athletics director Boo Corrigan and NC State football coach Dave Doeren told Cowher the news.

“We were in Dave’s office and I looked down at the field,” Cowher said.

“It was very moving. … A lot of it was me growing up to be a man on the football field down there. It has shaped my entire life. … Coming back here is very, very special. Tonight is very, very special.”

When asked about his takeaways from his time at NC State, Cowher pointed to several lessons.

“You get knocked down, you get back up. Nothing’s gonna be handed to you – you gotta earn everything you get," he said.

"The power of the mind is very powerful. I walked on the field, I became a certain way. When I walked off the field, I like to think I was a different person. On that football field, it was about being united with a sense of purpose, having a will not to be discouraged, just accept every challenge that’s thrown at you.”

What did Bill Cowher do at NC State football before coaching the Pittsburgh Steelers?

Cowher was a tackling machine at NC State. The linebacker racked up 371 career tackles, including a program-record 195 in 1978 as a senior.

Going back to those games against Penn State and Pitt, Cowher helped the Wolfpack earn a pair of victories against the Nittany Lions. In his final game with the Wolfpack, Cowher was a part of a 30-17 win against the Panthers in the 1978 Tangerine Bowl.

The last time Cowher was on the field at Carter-Finley Stadium was in 2004. He watched the Pittsburgh Steelers conduct a workout for former NC State quarterback Philip Rivers, who would be drafted before the Steelers had a chance to select him. But things worked out for Rivers and the Steelers.

“We ended up drafting Ben Roethlisberger, because Philip was gone,” Cowher said with a smile. “Not a slight to Ben … we certainly won a (Super Bowl) a year later.”

Cowher, who was hired as the head coach of the Steelers in 1992, helped the Roethlisberger-led Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL for the organization’s fifth championship.

He spent 15 seasons in the Steel City, becoming the second coach in league history to lead a team to the playoffs in each his first six seasons. He won 161 games and was twice named the NFL Coach of the Year. He resigned in 2007 and is currently a CBS NFL Today studio analyst.

Staff writer Rodd Baxley can be reached at or @RoddBaxley on X/Twitter.

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: What former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher said about NC State